Animal Collective consistently do more interesting and important things than arguably anyone in music today. Each of their releases has stood starkly on their own, yet when they are their entire catalog is considered, each album is undoubtedly an Animal Collective release. The once four, and now three current members of Animal Collective have reached a kind of sonic and aesthetic equilibrium that most bands only dream of and never obtain.
Fall Be Kind EP (out digitally now and physically December 8th on Domino) is the band’s first release of new material since January’s brilliant, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Fall… approaches the half-hour mark with a total of five tracks, some new, some leftover from Merriweather, and some constructed even before Merriweather. Regardless of when they were written, they all feel as though they were constructed in the same time frame by a band who was in their groove.
The album’s first track, Graze, is a great tune and an outstanding first song. The first word’s of the EP, half sung, half spoken by Avey Tare almost pleadingly, “let me begin, feels good cause it’s early, please open my eyes, let light in.” Over a light, airy melody of pianos and strings, the song meanders, as if to mimic a gradual awakening. When the song slows down around the three minute mark, rapid cymbal taps emerge seemingly out of nowhere, followed by a series of stomps and then, and unbelievably sincere pan-flute solo. It was a moment where I had to click back to my itunes to make sure something had not somehow become bungled. Sure enough, after a few seconds, a joyous and distorted drum loop kicked in, and Animal Collective began to chant, “Why do you have to go?”
The second track titled, What Would I Want? Sky, has become increasingly famous during the past year because it is the first song to ever use a licensed Grateful Dead sample (taken from the song, Unbroken Chain). Animal Collective manage to use the sample in such a way that it sounds completely natural. The song is almost seven minutes long and begins with a three minute segment filled with complex drum loops and sparse resonant vocal samples. As the Grateful Dead sample is first heard the song shift dramatically but it doesn’t feel forced. It seems to culminate in the only way it can. Avey Tare’s vocals swirl melodically around the repeated sample and simple drum loop while Panda Bear harmonizes and repeats in the background. It is definitely one of Animal Collective’s strongest tracks.
The third track, Bleeding, serves as a dark and ambient interlude that connects the first and second halves of the EP. The second half is darker and more mysterious. Track four finds Avey Tare introspectively musing about the pains of life on the road. Though this song carries a theme heard often in popular music, Avey finds a way to discuss and filter his ideas so that they don’t feel contrived or cliche.
The final song is a Panda Bear track that sounds like it could have been taken straight from 2007’s loop heavy solo effort, Person Pitch. The track, titled, I Think I Can, is long and dark. The vocals filter through a background of syncopated percussion and synth loops as Panda Bear sincerely tries to work things out. Its a journey of a song you’ll find yourself taking over and over again in an attempt to fully understand it.
Fall Be Kind is a very strong release. It’s credibility is increased by the fact that it is the second strong musical effort from this band, this calender year. The musicianship is top notch as the band concocts an array of musical structures ranging from the maddeningly complex to the incredibly simple. Lyrically, Animal Collective prove once more that they may be the only people around who can write about adulthood. If you’ve ever enjoyed Animal Collective before there is something in this release for you, do yourself a favor and check it out as soon as you can.